When I was a kid, bloating loomed pretty large in my mental landscape. We had ten acres of alfalfa, a milk cow, and several beef cattle, and we had to worry a lot about keeping the cattle from getting in to the alfalfa in the summer, or about chasing them out once they had got in. Because if they were allowed to, they would eat and eat the fresh, green alfalfa until their stomachs bloated up with methane gas and they died.
I saw a neighbor’s cow die of it. She was collapsed on the ground, her sides was bloated up like a balloon and she was fighting weakly to breath, and then she stopped. My dad saved our own cow when she got bloat. We found her in the field, where she shouldn’t be, staggering and distended. My dad came out with a hollow tube that was sharp at one end. My uncle steadied her while my dad stabbed the tube hard into her side. Green slime and gas exploded out. It all made quite an impression on my young mind. I was somber about bloating, the way little kids can be when they are trying on being serious.
That all came back to mind recently. I am looking into getting livestock of my own in a small way. Most varieties of domestic animal I consider, the authorities warn that they are prone to overeating or overdrinking this or that, with the result that they die. Cattle aren’t the only animals that can satisfy themselves to death. (more…)